Dempster struggles, bullpen closes the door

Dempster struggles, bullpen closes the door
May 19, 2013, 12:45 am
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Ryan Dempster allowed just one run over seven innings Tuesday night.

(AP Photo)

MINNEAPOLIS – Since May 2, when Ryan Dempster earned a win in Toronto the Red Sox have not gotten a ‘W’ from a starting pitcher other than Jon Lester, who has won twice in that 15-game span. That stretch continued Saturday night at Target Field, as the Sox pummeled the Twins 12-5. Despite a 3-0 lead after the first, Dempster was not around long enough to earn the win. At the discretion of the official scorer, that win went to Craig Breslow, the Sox third of four pitchers in the game.
 
Dempster lasted just 4 2/3 innings, his shortest outing of the season. He threw 127 pitches, a season high for a Sox starter. He gave up five runs on eight hits and six walks, both season highs, with two strikeouts, as his ERA climbed from 3.75 to 4.27.
 
“Wasn’t very good tonight,” Dempster succinctly said of his performance.
 
The problem?
 
“Throwing strikes, that was a big problem,” he said. “Just didn’t have any command tonight. So it sucks, but at the end of the day we won the game and that’s really all that matters. You can take positives -- fought out of some bases loaded jams that kept the game close -- and just didn’t hang in there to get the win. But we won the game and that’s what matters.”
 
Dempster said he felt fine in his pregame warm-ups.
 
“It was a great warm-up,” he said. “Warm-ups never really matter, if you warm up good or warm up bad. It’s what you do on the field, and I just couldn’t get consistent making pitches. I’d make one good pitch and two bad ones. And that’s the reason for the performance today.”
 
“He had trouble commanding his fastball down in the strike zone, split got away from him,” manager John Farrell said. “Into the fifth inning, despite the inconsistencies with him, he found a way to navigate through some things. A big strikeout to end the second inning on Joe] Mauer. Still worked around a number of base runners but the pitch count just got him and ran out of gas in the fifth.”

It was the first time Dempster has thrown that many pitches since Sept. 13, 2011, when he threw 128 while with the Cubs against the Reds. It was also a season high for a Sox pitcher, and are tied for second-most in Target Field history, behind Jered Weaver’s 128 on May 28, 2011, tied with Derek Lowe’s on May 15, 2012.
 
It was the fourth-highest total of Dempster’s career. Farrell, though, does not expect that to interfere with Dempster’s next start.
 
“He did throw a lot, 127 seven pitches is a lot,” Farrell said. “Even if you go 8 or 9 innings in 4-2/3 is more taxing as you like to see. I’m sure that he will be prepared for his next start when we get off this road trip. At this point we don’t anticipate another day needed.”
 
Clayton Mortensen relieved Dempster, going two-thirds of an inning without giving up a run. The official scorer decided to give the win to Breslow, saying Breslow was the most effective of the Sox relievers. Breslow went  1 2/3 scoreless innings, giving up one hit and one walk. Alex Wilson pitched the last two innings, without giving up a run.
 
It was the first win of the season for Breslow, who was not activated from the disabled list until May 6. Breslow was surprised by the decision.
 
“To be quite honest, I wasn’t thinking about it,” he said. “At that point I was just trying to worry about preserving the lead and throwing the ball over the plate. I would say not too many relievers really concern themselves with those kinds of statistics. I feel like the objective for me was just, like I said, preserve the lead, strand the runners. I’m far happier about that than getting the win.”
 
Still, earning his first win is a good feeling.
 
“Obviously I was a little late to the season,” he said. “But I feel like I’m getting a little bit more comfortable every time I get out there. I still have a little bit of a ways to go but to be able to kind of get stronger, get the reps and help us win, was kind of the combination of a few good things.”
 
Breslow entered the game with one out in the sixth inning, runners on first and second, the Sox leading by two runs. He walked Trevor Plouffe to load the bases. Aaron Hicks popped up to Dustin Pedroia in short right field, with Ryan Doumit tagging and attempting to score from third. Pedroia threw to catcher Ryan Lavarnway, who was bowled over by Doumit, but hung on to the ball, completing the inning-ending double play.
 
In the next half inning, the Sox scored four runs, putting a sufficiently comfortable distance between themselves and the Twins.
 
“We jumped out to a lead but I don’t think at any point we felt comfortable until we put a little bit of distance between us and them,” Breslow said. “Both starting pitchers were battling. It looked like there were a few opportunities where a timely hit here or there could have made things pretty vastly different. But Demp battled, kept us in the game obviously. I’m sure he would have liked to have gotten through five. But he kept us in position to get the win, turn it over to the bullpen, and we were able to hold them. And the offense just kept clicking. It seemed like every time there was a big hit to get, fortunately it happened for us.”